You think that you have prepared a nail-biting lecture of suspense about every war in which the United States has fought, and, by the War of 1812, your students are staring out the window, hoping for a superhero to fly in and rescue them from the classroom.
Even for the most dedicated of students, books and lectures get boring.
Keeping lessons fresh and challenging means keeping them interactive, and given it is almost 2013, incorporating this task is actually much easier than ignoring it.
The incorporation of technology into classroom settings has shown a positive impact on the attention and scores of students. Students at risk of failure in education have been shown to engage and absorb material better with the use of technology, while technology in the classroom has also helped students with autism communicate more effectively.
Below are some advances in 2012 which have changed the face of education and how students interact with technology, and each other:
The Kineo Tablet: an 8-inch 1.3 GHz dual-core tablet aimed at schools that starts at $299. Kineo can work with a school’s other assessment and instructional software.
Toys R Us Tabeo: A $150 tablet aimed at upscaling the child device category dominated by LeapFrog and VTech, the Tabeo is a 7-inch Android 4.0 ICS tablet. It has 4 GB of storage and built-in Wi-Fi. It also has as access to a curated app store, which includes 7,000 free apps and thousands available for purchase.
Fuhu Nabi 2: This $199 tablet is a powerhouse in comparison to other tablets within the Android market. To summarize, it’s basically a Google Nexus 7 but for kids.
Kuno: This 10-inch tablet is for the modern educator, running Ice Cream Sandwich on top of a 1.2 GHz ARM A8 chip, 1 GB RAM, and 16 GB of storage. The CurriculumLoft software helps teachers manage classrooms and is easily supported. This may be why several townships across the country have incorporated it into their systems.
iPad: This is listed last because it gets the most attention naturally, and because this author believes the quality of Apple is slowly dissipating (opinion). The new iPad Mini promotes a 7.9-inch display, 10 hour battery life, and access to the Apple App store which has literally thousands of teaching aids and interactive tools for every classroom.
Technology in the classroom has multiple benefits, including increased student involvement, more interaction between students, and an extra inlet for information in the form of the Internet, which offers videos and references that students can incorporate into classwork.
Most teachers recognize that allowing unrestricted use of the Internet in a classroom is a bad idea, but effective incorporation of the Internet can bring a world of new knowledge into a class. YouTube Teachers and YouTube Education are free services that help teachers sort through the vast number of videos to find ones with the most value, while sites like the Jewish Center of New York and the National Civil Rights Museum provide online learning tools and curriculum guides.
While technology has earned its place in classrooms, it is far from the only method of classroom interactivity. Teachers have been finding ways to interact with students since long before laptops and the iPad. Games, projects, and role-playing are some popular forms of classroom interaction. Anything that can take students out of the role of dormant listeners to active classroom participants will help invigorate the learning process.
Though field trips may feel like blessings to students simply because they get out of school for a day, the trips are by no means vacations from learning. Visits to a museum, a factory or a financial institution is a form of interactive education that encourages students’ curiosity and sticks in their brains, whether they realize it or not. Field trips are vital, suggests Brian Myers and Linda Jones of the University of Florida, because they provide first-hand, real-world experience on topics that may have only been classroom theory in students’ minds.
But if a destination is beyond your geographic area, there are still plenty of resources online. For example, when teaching about Native Americans, access some of the interactive tools the Chickasaw tribe offers on its website. Other trips which incorporate interactive technologies include the Smithsonian, Library of Congress, and the National Archives.
2013 is coming. Creative teachers who can use technology and hands-on projects to create an interactive learning environment that makes class less about listening and more about doing will stand head and shoulders above those who plan to linger behind. With the advent and continued popularity of social, the interaction, both personally and in education will continually grow.
Students involved with interactive education make the experiences their own, promoting retention and utilization. By engaging students in a way that holds their interest and helps them absorb the material, teachers can be their own brand of hero.